There are lots of easy appetizers I have in my arsenal of recipes but this one is one of my favorites... Gougères, the fancy French name for cheese puffs, are simple to make and you can freeze them and reheat them later so that makes them perfect party food in my book. Based on a classic French recipe for cream puffs but without the sugar, this base recipe can be used for all sorts of things: make them a bit larger, slice in half and use as a bun for a tea sandwich, for example. With sugar, it becomes a cream puff when you fill it with custard. Perfect for just about any menu- make a ton and freeze some for later... they are best served warm. Change up the cheese as you like; the traditional method uses Comte or Gruyere. I like adding a bit of Parmesan, too. I often just use scraps of whatever cheese I have around that need to be used. Addictive!
GOUGERES (CHEESE PUFFS)
11/2 cups water
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups shredded white Cheddar cheese (or use Gruyere for the traditionalist)
pinch cayenne pepper
1- 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon for tops
Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
Put the water into a large pan over high heat. Add the butter and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat. Add the flour all at once, stirring until the mixture becomes a smooth, thick paste with no lumps. Add in the beaten eggs, a little at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition until incorporated and the dough is not slippery.
Stir in cayenne, black pepper, and the cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Put the dough in a pastry bag or a ziptop bag and push it down into the corner. Snip the end.
Pipe the dough into 2" mounds. Use a bit of water on your finger to tap down the top slightly so the tip won't burn. Sprinkle the top of each with the remaining sea salt. Bake at 400 for about 25-30 minutes or until dry and golden brown. Baking time is determined by how large you pipe the rounds. Check one by pulling it apart to make sure the inside is not still doughy.
Remove from the oven and pierce each puff to allow the steam to escape. Serve warm.
Leave off the cheese and you can make these to stuff with all sorts of goodies. Chicken salad comes to mind.....